Schizophrenia is a severe long-term mental health condition. It causes a range of different psychological symptoms.

Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis. This means the person may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality.

Symptoms of schizophrenia

Symptoms of schizophrenia include: 

  • hallucinations – hearing or seeing things that don't exist
  • delusions – unusual beliefs not based on reality 
  • muddled thoughts based on hallucinations or delusions
  • changes in behaviour

Some people think schizophrenia causes a "split personality" or violent behaviour. This is not true.

The cause of any violent behaviour is usually drug or alcohol misuse.

Read about symptoms of schizophrenia.

When to seek medical advice

If you're experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, see your GP as soon as possible. The earlier schizophrenia is treated, the better.

There's no single test for schizophrenia. It's usually diagnosed after an assessment by a mental health care professional, such as a psychiatrist.

Read about diagnosing schizophrenia.

Causes of schizophrenia

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. However, most experts believe the condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

It's thought that some people are more vulnerable to developing schizophrenia, and certain situations can trigger the condition.

Read about the causes of schizophrenia.

Treating schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is usually treated with a combination of medication and therapy tailored to each individual. In most cases, this will be antipsychotic medicines and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

People with schizophrenia usually receive help from a community mental health team, which offers day-to-day support and treatment.

Many people recover from schizophrenia, although they may have periods when symptoms return (relapses). Support and treatment can help reduce the impact the condition has on daily life.

Read about treating schizophrenia.

Living with schizophrenia

If schizophrenia is well managed, it's possible to reduce the chance of severe relapses.

This can include:

  • recognising the signs of an acute episode
  • taking medication as prescribed
  • talking to others about the condition

There are many charities and support groups offering help and advice on living with schizophrenia. Most people find it comforting talking to others with a similar condition.

Read about living with schizophrenia.

Page last reviewed: 11/10/2016

Next review due: 11/10/2019